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Focused activities: sustainability days

Personal and Social Education

Focused activities: sustainability days

As part of the whole school approach to PSE, the school decided to hold a focused activity to promote sustainability. The two day activity for all Year 9 learners took place during the last week of the summer term. Preparatory work was completed with form tutors prior to the activity taking place. Learners completed a simple questionnaire to calculate their carbon footprint as this information was needed for the introductory session on day one.

The year group was divided up into approximately twenty mixed ability groups with ten learners in each group supported by a member of staff. Day one began with a brief presentation in the school hall to get the learners thinking about their carbon footprint and sustainability. The groups then took part in a team building, problem solving activity in which they had to look into all of the processes involved in the production and sale of a chocolate novelty egg. This very enjoyable activity encouraged the learners to think about sustainability issues from a range of perspectives.

Each group then discussed and decided upon a sustainability topic which they wanted to explore further. Learners had  freedom to interpret and research their chosen topic in their own way knowing that, at the end of the activity, they had to present their findings to the rest of the year group.  Examples of research topics included:

  • the causes and consequences of global warming
  • renewable energy
  • recycling (in their local area/globally)
  • ways of reducing their carbon footprint/living more sustainably.

Each group worked independently in classrooms and ICT rooms before returning to the school hall for the plenary session on Day two. The final presentations were of a very high standard and were extremely varied including:

  • short drama productions, e.g. a group whose presentation was on the causes of global warming dressed up as scientists in white coats, moustaches and glasses
  • hand built models, e.g. solar cars
  • PowerPoint presentations
  • models of large papier mache ‘monster’ recycling bins
  • musical items
  • poster displays.

Links with the PSE framework


The focused activity provided many rich opportunities for personal and social skill development. The group discussions, research tasks and presentations provided opportunities for the learners to apply their communication skills. Working in mixed ability groups towards an agreed purpose with designated roles for each member of the group clearly demonstrated working with others. Online research involved applying ICT skills. Some groups drew graphs and calculated data relating to carbon footprints and so these learners also developed their number skills. Each group worked independently, managed their own time and met agreed deadlines. Finally, all groups during the two days came across problems which whey had to solve.

Specifically learners developed their thinking, communication, number and ICT skills as they were given opportunities to:

  • use some prior knowledge to explain links between cause and effect
  • identify and assess bias and reliability, e.g. evaluate messages from the media
  • consider others' views to inform opinions and make informed decisions and choices effectively
  • communicate confidently personal feelings and views through a range of appropriate methods
  • express opinions clearly and justify a personal standpoint
  • access and select data from relevant information presented in a variety of ways and from different sources to support understanding of PSE-related issues
  • find and develop information and ideas
  • create and present information and ideas
  • work both independently and cooperatively
  • access an appropriate range of sources for help, support and advice
  • manage time and meet deadlines.


The activity delivered several key stage learning outcomes from the Sustainable development and global citizenship theme. Learners were given opportunities to:

  • develop a sense of personal responsibility towards local and global issues

and to understand:

  • the key issues of sustainable development and global citizenship, e.g. climate change and the need to reflect on personal decisions about lifestyle choices
  • global issues which threaten the planet.

The learners benefited greatly from this activity as they learnt a great deal about sustainability as well as developing key skills.  Learners' wider key skills, working with others, and improving own learning, were assessed with most learners achieving Level 1 or Level 2.

Future plans

The outcomes of the group work will be displayed around the school, and the group presentations will be hosted on the school website.

Learners have asked for more similar activities because they felt they had learnt so much and in an enjoyable way as they were in charge of their own learning. The success of this focused activity and the positive response by learners has led to other similar events being planned and organised with other year groups.

Related Links

The PSE framework provides the foundation for a broad, balanced holistic approach to PSE.